WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 17, 2013) -- Across the force, installation commanders will soon be directed to more actively engage with businesses in working partnerships that will be mutually beneficial to both the Army and the communities that surround its posts and installations.

Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, said last week she would soon be sending out such a directive to installations across the Army.

Sitting alongside her Navy and Air Force counterparts at the Association of Defense Communities National Summit here, Hammack said privatization and military partnerships with communities and the private sector are becoming more important as the Army's budget gets smaller.

"This is something we look forward to, and we think there are a lot of opportunities here," Hammack said, adding that such partnerships must be pursued carefully. "If we move out too fast and execute contracts that are something we cannot legally support, or are raised into question, it jeopardizes all of us."

The Army already has several partnerships underway. One of those is the Residential Communities Initiative, which now provides 98 percent of family housing at 44 posts and installations. Hammack said the initial construction and renovation of that housing is estimated at about $13.2 billion. Only about $2 billion of that came from the Army, the remainder from the private sector.

She also noted that from 1999 to 2012, Army partners have constructed more than 29,000 homes and renovated another 25,000, making it the longest-running and most successful partnership the Army continues to have.

Additionally, the Army has also embarked on the privatization of Army lodging, facilities for transient Soldiers, visitors, and Soldiers and family members who are making a permanent change of station.

"We have been able to improve the quality of lodging through private sector investment in the lodging, yet still provide it at an efficient cost to our Army family," Hammack said.

Hammack also highlighted a community partnership between Fort Huachuca and host community Sierra Vista, Ariz., which teamed with the Army and replaced the post's outdated and under-sourced library with the city's modern, state-of-the-art facility. Additionally at Huachuca, the Army provided land for the city to establish a municipal airport at the joint-use airfield.

Aside from housing and lodging partnerships, Hammack said, the Army has also expanded its power purchase arrangements. As part of that effort, the private sector contracts with a post to install on the installation such alternative energy systems as solar, wind, biomass, or natural gas.

"We commit to buy the energy from that system for a period of years," she said. "Quite often we're seeing these prices come in at parity or less than grid power. With a contract for 20 years, we have both energy security because the production is on base, but it also gives us the ability to better manage utility costs."

Right now, Hammack said, private sector investments in alternative energy to support the Army is helping the service save over 6.6 trillion BTUs in energy per year.

"We are leading the federal government in these partnerships to improve our energy efficiency on our installations," Hammack said. "We know utilities cost dollars."